Hanuman Chalisa played at some places amid row over loudspeakers at mosques
Police action and observance of the loudspeaker norms at mosques ensured the situation remained under control
MUMBAI: Loudspeakers were not used or kept at volumes within permissible levels at mosques as Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray threatened to launch an agitation from Wednesday if the public address systems were not removed from Muslim places of worship.
Thackeray asked MNS workers and Hindus to play the devotional hymn Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques using loudspeakers for the call for prayers. A few attempts for playing the hymn were reported. Officials said police action and observance of the loudspeaker norms at mosques ensured the situation remained under control.
Security was enhanced around mosques as the government expected confrontation following Thackeray’s announcement. MNS leaders were expected to go ahead with the agitation during the afternoon prayers.
Thackeray tweeted a three-page letter clarifying his stand on the agitation. He appealed to Hindus to play Hanuman Chalisa whenever they hear prayers on loudspeakers from the mosques.
MNS workers played the hymn from a residential building at Mumbai’s Charkop at 5:00 am when the morning call for prayer was made from a nearby mosque. Similar reports came from Nerul (Navi Mumbai) and Washim.
MNS leader Prakash Mahajan complained to police in Aurangabad against the management of a mosque for using loudspeakers for the prayer call.
Maharashtra Police have been put on high alert across the state. They issued notices to 15,000 people, including MNS and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, to ensure peace. Many MNS workers were also detained. Leaders including Raj Thackeray have been issued notices under Section 149 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, which empowers the police to prevent cognisable offences.
MNS leader Nitin Sardesai said they do not want confrontation with anyone. “Muslims need to adhere to the Supreme Court’s guidelines on loudspeakers and this issue will die down,” said Sardesai. The court in June 2005 banned loudspeaker use in the public between 10 pm and 6 am.
On Wednesday morning, Thackeray also tweeted an old video of his late uncle and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray opposing loudspeakers atop mosques.
MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande said the video was an attempt to remind the ruling Shiv Sena of Bal Thackeray’s view on loudspeakers. “Shiv Sena is deliberately ignoring it to remain in power.”
Shiv Sena leader Kishori Pednekar hit out at Raj Thackeray for misleading the people. “Balasaheb was logical...Raj Thackeray’s aim is to create problems for his brother [chief minister Uddhav Thackeray].”
Raj Thackeray was on Tuesday charged with intent to cause riot over his repeated threats to protest against loudspeakers in mosques following his provocative speech at Aurangabad.
The government has convened a meeting of the key leaders of the state’s ruling coalition to review the situation. Uddhav Thackeray, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, and minister Balasaheb Thorat (Congress) are expected to attend the meeting.
On April 2, Raj Thackeray first announced that MNS workers will play Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques in protest against loudspeaker use. He gave an ultimatum to the government on April 12 to remove the public address systems from mosques by May 3 to avoid law and order problems.
After a series of election defeats, Raj Thackeray in January 2020 unveiled a new saffron flag with the seal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. His rhetoric amid an apparent shift to Hindutva has sharpened ahead of civic polls across Maharashtra.
Raj Thackeray was seen as the successor to Bal Thackeray, who chose Uddhav Thackeray, his son, to lead the Shiv Sena. This succession prompted Raj Thackeray to quit Shiv Sena in 2005 and form MNS in 2006.